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Mindful self-compassion is a beautiful concept and a radical shift for those of us who used to have a particularly active and harsh inner critic – that internal voice that undermines us, criticises us, shames us and otherwise makes our life feel like a battleground rather than a place of ease and joy.
Self-compassion is having the same compassion towards yourself that you have towards others. Compassion for others is when you notice that someone is suffering and you are moved by their experience. Your heart feels for the suffering that they are going through. Compassion for others is not pity; it is about recognizing that everyone is human and imperfect. In a way, you are identifying with the person you see struggling. Self-compassion is about taking this feeling and turning it inward towards ourselves.
If you’re wanting to improve your self-compassion, developing your mindfulness skills could be an excellent place to start.
While the two are distinct practices in their own right, combining them can lead to incredible personal results. In more general mindfulness practice, the focus is on the experience component – thoughts, feelings, physical sensations – and how to direct or develop your thoughts around the experience.
For example, if the experience were chronic pain, through mindfulness you would focus on understanding the physical aspects of the experience, and directing your thinking from negative – ‘this is terrible pain’ – to a neutral exploration of what is happening in your body.
However, in the targeted practice of mindfulness for self-compassion, the emphasis is very much on the individual as the experiencer. Again, in the experience of chronic pain, mindfulness in the context of self-compassion moves from the physical sensations to thoughts about the experience that are turned inwards, redirecting negative thoughts of ‘this is my fault’ to more neutral or positive thinking.
Self-compassion has a focus on the self and on soothing the individual when distressing situations occur. Through mindfulness, the individual can transform their remit of experience as an individual, and redirect or transform negative thoughts.